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Labiaplasty: Why do some Plastic Surgeons call it “Vaginal Surgery”?

designer vaginas

flowers pubis




LABIAPLASTY is a surgical procedure designed to rejuvenate a woman’s external genitalia.  See several previous blog posts about labiaplasty, which describe pertinent anatomy of labiaplasty surgery and describe who seeks this surgery, the recovery, expected downtime and view before and after photos of labiaplasty surgery results on my website.

Yesterday afternoon at the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) 2014 annual scientific meeting in San Francisco, I attended a two-hour course on “Cosmetic Vaginal Surgery: Labiaplasty and Beyond” .  I was perplexed that although the lecture authentically focused on the main components of labiaplasty, including:

  • Labia minora reduction
  • Labia majora reduction
  • Clitoral hood reduction
  • Mons pubis reduction or contouring
  • Augmentation of the labia majora +/- mons pubis with fillers (temporary) or fat grafting (permanent)

the speaker showed reliable results and thoughtfully discussed the preoperative assessment of potential patients, surgical details and limitations of labiaplasty procedures.  However, the labiaplasty procedure was repeatedly referred to as “vaginal rejuvenation”.  Which led me to ask – WHY is this term used about labiaplasty, when it does not actually address the vagina?

I am a stickler for semantics, and I point out to my patients who see me in consultation for labiaplasty that it only involves contouring of the EXTERNAL GENITALIA of a woman’s body.  This includes the labia minora, labia majora, clitoral hood and sometimes the mons pubis.  A labiaplasty does NOT address the VAGINA!

As Board Certified Plastic Surgeons, we are trained in the reconstruction, rearrangement and rejuvenation of many areas of the body, including the external genitalia.  Plastic Surgeons, however, are not trained in the internal anatomy of the female genitalia, which includes the inner walls of the vagina and internal reproductive organs.  The terms “vaginoplasty”, “designer vagina”, “vaginal rejuvenation”, “vaginal tightening”, etc. are misnomers and do not accurately reflect what a labiaplasty procedure involves.

brochureEven ASAPS, our professional aesthetic society whose aim is to help educate the public and our patients about Plastic Surgery and to dispel myths about our profession, provided me with a formal pamphlet about labiaplasty at the lecture I attended that had excellent procedural information but was entitled “Aesthetic Vaginal Surgery”, rather than “Labiaplasty”!

The content of the pamphlet is excellent, and it is a new brochure produced by the society.  However, I am disappointed in the use of words in its title and throughout the publication.  I can only surmise that my colleagues who use the term “vagina” and related terms and our society feels that the public cannot differentiate between the external genitalia and the vagina.

“Vaginoplasty” or “vaginal rejuvenation” is a procedure performed by some GYN surgeons “to tighten the vaginal opening and the vagina by toning vaginal tissue and muscles and removing excess tissue.  Plastic Surgeons can only perform external (visible) vaginal cosmetic surgery.  Thanks to their educational backgrounds in gynecological surgery, [gynecologic] physicians are able to carry out extended and comprehensive operations on the vagina and the surrounding genital tissue.  It is performed on patients complaining of laceration or prolapse after vaginal delivery. The prolapse may involve the bladder and/or rectum. This may be combined with uterine prolapse as well.” – from a detailed gynecological surgery website

thanksSo – for women seeking labiaplasty and who wish to have improved contour of the labia minora, labia majora, clitoral hood or pubic region, I will continue to educate about the wonderful labiaplasty procedure we offer and that I love to perform!  “My role as a Plastic Surgeon is to educate, inform and empower women” – this is my practice motto on my website home page.

Labiaplasty can be life-changing for many women, enabling them to ride a bicycle without pain, perform yoga, wear a bathing suit or sit cross-legged without being self-conscious, and allows them greater confidence in intimate situations.

However, I will not use the terms related to the vagina to promote this procedure.  It is inaccurate and misleading in my mind to call a labiaplasty anything other than what it is – surgery of the labias!

To schedule a labiaplasty consultation and to learn more about this procedure, contact us online or call 415-923-3067 today!



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Dr. Karen M. Horton, M.D. - Plastic Surgery, Physicians & Surgeons - Medical-M.D., San Francisco, CA